In finding this article, I questioned my understanding of the word 'gadget'.

My current understanding is the word is (and please let me know in your answer if I'm right or wrong on this one) synonymous with 'accessory'. The only difference really being that accessory somewhat precedes the technological age. Hence, 'gadget' carries a sort of electronic/technological connotation (but not necessarily?).

The article enumerates a 'backpack' as a gadget. Is that correct?

  • 2
    I am not sure I would use gadget for a backpack or a desk.
    – Henry
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 16:12
  • The implosion-type plutonium nuclear weapon in the 1945 Trinity test was nicknamed the "gadget". Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 19:05
  • This is not a duplicate of the question whether all gadgets are electronic. One may know that, as the answers to the other question make clear, the concept of a gadget includes many things that are not electronic in nature, and still wonder, as the OP does, whether it could be applied to something like a backpack.
    – jsw29
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 22:28
  • A backpack is a must-have (basic, essential) unless you have extra belts and a time machine. Commented Nov 18, 2023 at 0:34
  • It is strictly speaking an accessory, but then the entire para would have to be rewritten at the beginning of the list of gadgets. Would you add the word there too?
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 18, 2023 at 16:01

1 Answer 1


No, gadget and accessory are not synonyms.

An accessory is designed to be used or worn with the main item, like earphones with a mobile phone or a hat and gloves with a coat.

A gadget is a device for doing something; it doesn't have to be electronic/technological. Oxford Languages says that the word goes back to the late 19th century, though it really took off in the 20th. Another dictionary refers to the humble egg separator as an example of a kitchen gadget. However, I agree that the article is rather stretching a point when it calls the backpack and desk 'gadgets'- and some of the other items could also be called 'accessories' - but I suppose it sounds better than 'things you need'!

  • Thanks! Accepted! However, in this context, would you agree accessories would be a good word instead of "gadget"? For example, a watch is often considered an accessory. I see it as something "optional" that's not necessary.
    – Dan
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 16:44
  • Basically the definition of accessory I'm looking at is that of the adjective: "contributing to or aiding an activity or process in a minor way; subsidiary or supplementary"
    – Dan
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 16:47
  • 1
    Well, I did say some of the items - I'm not sure about the desk! Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 16:50
  • While it is true that a gadget does not have to be electronic, doesn't it always have to involve some sort of technology? The part of this answer that ought to be emphasised is that 'a gadget is a device for doing something'; that rules the objects that are essentially passive, like backpacks and desks (although one could perhaps use the word for some gimmicky backpack or a desk that has a lot of adjustable, special-purpose moving parts).
    – jsw29
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 17:55
  • @jsw29 An adjustable desk might have a gadget for moving it up and down (mechanical or electrical), but I would not say that this makes the desk a gadget.
    – Henry
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 18:43

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